Pyrography (Fire Art on Wood) for Pleasure or Profit – Seven First Step Ideas

1. So what should your first step into learning Pyrography or the art of wood burning be?

First familiarise yourself either by reading books borrowed through your local library or from research on the internet. Look at the kinds of work produced by Pyrographers. Find out about the different Pyrography machines and tools that you can buy and the effects that can be created from them. When you are researching manufacturers that sell Pyrographic tools have a look at the range of ready made objects that you can buy to create your own products.

2. When I began my Pyrography I soon realised that woods such as pine that contain a resin when burnt, can give off toxic fumes. The acrid smell actually caught the back of my throat making me cough. After reading information about wood toxicity I realised that the use of a mask is very important when burning those woods that have a resin or are coated and sealed with lacquers, also woods that have been treated with chemicals. Always work in a well ventilated room.

3. For choice of materials to burn upon, the safest and easiest option for Pyrography is to purchase your wooden blanks from a Pyrographic supplier and then you can be absolutely certain of their quality and suitability for wood burning. A Pyrographic supplier will offer you woods such as beech, sycamore, lime and good quality plywood. Another alternative is to buy wood from a dealer that supplies raw timber to furniture makers or wood turners. I was lucky to discover a local woodturning centre where I could purchase woods from a wide selection of timbers. Some of these woods offered a choice of surfaces to burn on, with graining of different densities and widths. Beware of Pyrography problems that can arise with uneven burning, as the grain of the wood changes the strength and rate that your tool burns the surface of the wood. If you are aiming for an even effect it is better to use a close grained and hard wood.

4. For a first attempt at Pyrography, I would choose to keep your design uncomplicated, then the end result will be more effective. Try to find something that has a simple and easily identifiable outline such as tracing around a drinks coaster or an upturned glass with a soft pencil or drawing a simple flower shape. Next have a go at burning it onto a piece of wood using a ball type nib which will slide more easily to create the curve of your shape. One step onwards from this might be to select a slightly more complicated shape – for instance try a shape with corners.

Practice as many outlines as possible and once you can master making a clean cut line then you are ready to create a simple outline design that you can add colour to. Select the colours for your shapes from a variety of materials such as watercolour and acrylic paints, felt tip pens and markers. Once you become more adept at Pyrography you can try your hand at burning backgrounds and then building up your inner design from using the natural burning process to create different sepia tones, you may also like to embellish your Pyrography design with practised techniques to create patterns with different nibs.

5. Develop your own test woods from scraps where you produce a series of graduated marks and make up a selection of patterns using different intensities of touch. Use these test woods as a reference and you will soon find the confidence to create larger pieces of Pyrography.

6. Pyrography is a ‘Fire Art’ and fire must be kept under control, your safety is as important as any other persons, please do not be careless or take unsafe shortcuts, it is definitely not worth it! Always switch off your machine when not in use, never leave a machine unattended if switched on, much better to be safe than sorry! If you leave other materials too near a machine that is switched on and they catch alight it will be seconds before the fire spreads, so take great care!

7. There are so many different opportunities that you can develop for yourself when you have mastered the basics in Pyrography. You can make gifts for your friends or create small pieces of work to sell on a stall to raise funds for charity etc. Pyrography also offers anyone a chance to set themselves up in their own little business if they so wish.

It is easy to buy a range of basic wooden household items such as boxes, spoons, picture frames etc that you can burn patterns onto, from wood burning supply catalogues. The more simple the design the more effective the Pyrography image will look as a decoration upon a household item of your choice.

Pyrography is a very pleasurable pastime whether you choose to take it further and create a small business or you just want to participate in Pyrography for your own enjoyment. Whatever you decide to do, you should be pleased that you are helping to keep an old craft alive but don’t forget to tell others about it and encourage them to have a go!

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